Tonight Syracuse takes on Pitt in the second of two matchups this season. In the first, the Orange trumped the Panthers 69-61 in the Dome, this time SU takes the trip down to Pennsylvania to take on Pitt at the Oakland Zoo. Here are a few things to know about this Pitt team:
Syracuse has struggled on the defensive side of the floor all season long. Currently, 191st in the country in points allowed, this Orange squad hasn’t been able to rely on what’s been their bread and butter for decades. With the defense being so unreliable that means the offense has got to pick up the slack. Which for the most part it has. This team scores 74 points every night which is abnormally high for Syracuse and has had consistent scoring from three guys all year. That’s what kept this team in the tournament conversation for so long. A problem the Orange will run into tonight, however, is the stout defense of this Panthers squad. Pitt sports a top 50 defense in the country, its play on the defensive end has been what it’s relied on all year. The Panthers do have decent scoring ability, but defense is what’s gotten them to 15 wins.
This team’s big three is nothing to scoff at. Trey McGowans, Xaiver Johnson and Justin Champagnie are the driving force for this team down the offensive end of the floor. Last time the Orange played the Panthers back in January SU was able to keep the Pitt trio to only 30 points, which was a large reason for the Orange victory. If SU can follow up that performance with another just like it chances are things go Syracuse’s way. None of these three guys are prolific three-point shooters, nor are they athletic big men that foam from the mouth at the sight of Marek Dolezaj or Bourama Sidibe on the floor. With the two biggest flaws of this year’s iteration of the 2-3 zone being non-issues against the Panthers scoring threats, Syracuse should win this game.
4-Game Losing Streak
It’s important to shed light on where this Pitt team stands at this point in the season. 15-13 (6-11 ACC) and coming off 4 straight losses. Momentum certainly isn’t in Pitt’s favor, Jeff Capel’s squad has lost by at least 10 in 3 out of those 4 contests. But what would a win mean for Syracuse at this point? The NC State, FSU and Louisville losses make it hard to create a tournament case for this team, but a win tonight against Pitt shows that this team hasn’t quit which has been a theme all season long, there’s no doubt this is a team of fighters, and it would also mean that this team has the ability to get rolling on their way into the ACC tournament. A few wins there and who knows this ‘Cuse squad could be on its way.
This should be a win for the Orange, one that gives them the momentum to finish the regular season strong and go into the ACC tournament with a taste of winning left in their mouth.